14 Aug 2010

Independence Day celebrations cancelled in Pakistan

9:27 pm on 14 August 2010

Pakistan will not hold official Independence Day celebrations on Saturday as the country tries to cope with the devastating floods.

President Asif Ali Zardari will instead spend the day touring affected regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces.

The BBC reports he has been bitterly criticised for pressing ahead with an European tour last week.

Mr Zardari spent Thursday visiting affected areas in Sukkur in Sindh province.

Although the president will still visit Russia next week, he will now stay only a few hours instead of the scheduled two days.

The floods are the worst in 80 years; 14 million people are affected and 1600 are dead, according to the United Nations.

The UN has appealed for $US460 million for aid.

Flood levels are expected to surge even higher along parts of the Indus river, with the National Disaster Management Authority saying "major peaks" were expected next week in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

The BBC reports there will be no special official gatherings or flag-raising ceremonies on Saturday.

Special parades at military corps headquarters will not take place and official buildings will not be specially lit.

An annual gathering and civic awards ceremony at the president's house will also not take place. Major firework, cultural and music shows will be cancelled.